By Reginald Andrew
A topic of heated discussion in the public domain and social media circles, when it was first introduced, the Special Prosecutor bill made its second appearance in the Lower House of Assembly yesterday, proving how adamant government has been in its stance to set a precedent that will make public officials liable for prosecution, for any alleged infringements dealing with public funds.
According to official sources, the purpose of the Bill is “to provide for the Special Prosecutor, the investigation and prosecution of corrupt conduct of public officers and public officials and for the appointment of the Special Prosecutor”.
Prime Minister Philip J Pierre, yesterday outside parliament, told reporters that the long awaited legislation to deal with the appointment of a special prosecutor has come, and that Saint Lucia is going to be one of the first islands in the OECS to have legislation that will make politicians and public officials think twice before they get involved in corruption.
Pierre stated that the bill was not intended as a witch-hunt to accuse anyone, but rather “we will be ensuring that corrupt behaviour is dealt with legally and dealt with (within) the courses of the law.”
He added that provisions will be made within the confines of the law to confer upon the special prosecutor, the legal authority to investigate anyone found involved in public mismanagement.
As the bill makes provision for the special prosecutor to serve for a five-year term, will there be continuity of the investigations by a successor?
“The special prosecutor will be someone of high integrity …it is not a political appointment,” said Pierre. “We are expecting the individual to behave in the highest level of integrity to ensure that St Lucia’s reputation is not sullied. There are several accusations (being made) all over the place, and if these accusations are proven then the processes must continue,” Pierre said.
He added, “I can assure you, what I want as prime minster is to run a country where corruption is at its lowest level …if possible, non-existent and the people of St Lucia have faith in the government.”
Pierre said no one has yet been earmarked for the post of special prosecutor and that “they would be appointed by the judicial legal commission.”
Expounding on the role of the special prosecutor, the prime minister explained that the post will function independently of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office and that the individual “does not negate or take any precedence or does not do the job of the DPP. The individual would have their own power to bring anyone, any public official who is involved in corruption and who is reported …they can then investigate and come to a conclusion whether the matter can be taken (prosecuted) criminally or civilly.”
While indicating that there was nothing to fear about the special prosecutor’s role, PM Pierre said, “…it’s the same with the Director of Public Prosecutions, there is nothing to be afraid of. Anyone who is afraid of the public prosecutor has ‘coco in sun’.”
Part I of the Bill (Office of Special Prosecutor) provides for the Special Prosecutor in clauses 4 to 23. The appointment of the Special Prosecutor and disqualification of the Special Prosecutor are provided for in clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill. The functions of the Special Prosecutor, signification of documents, powers of the Special Prosecutor and duration of appointment of the Special Prosecutor are provided for in clauses 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the Bill.
The Special Prosecutor may resign in accordance with clause 10 of the Bill. A vacancy in the office of the Special Prosecutor under clause 11 of the Bill and the appointment of an Acting Special Prosecutor is provided for under clause 12 of the Bill. Clause 13 of the Bill provides for the removal of the Special Prosecutor.
The appearance of the Special Prosecutor, staff of the Special Prosecutor, appointment of attorneys-at-law, appointment of investigators, administrative and ancillary staff are provided for in clauses 14, 15,16 and 17 of the Bill.
Clauses 18, 19 and 20 of the Bill provide for the secondment of a public officer, oath or affirmation to be taken by the Special Prosecutor and Acting Special Prosecutor.
The funds for the Special Prosecutor is provided for in clause 21 of the Bill and administrative arrangements may be made under clause 22 of the Bill. An annual report is provided for under clause 23 of the Bill.
Part II of the Bill (Prevention of Corrupt Conduct) contains clauses 24 to 29. Corrupt conduct is prohibited under clause 24 of the Bill and the making a complaint is provided for under clause 25 of the Bill.
Clause 26 of the Bill makes provision for the protection of persons making complaint. In clauses 27, 28 and 29 of the Bill provision is made for the rejection of a complaint by the Special Prosecutor, investigation of breach of the Bill and the institution of prosecution against a public officer or public official.
Miscellaneous provisions are made under Part III of the Bill which provides in clause 30 for the amendment of the Schedule and in clause 31 the making of Regulations by the Attorney General.